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China Modifies Cows To Produce Human Breastmilk

China Modifies Cows To Produce Human Breastmilk

Genetic modification of livestock just took a turn for the downright weird.

Chinese scientists have announced that they have altered cows to produce milk more similar to human breastmilk. They claim to have introduced human genes into a herd of 300 cows that will cause the cows’ milk to have much more “human” milk properties.

They hope the research, which the scientists claim is backed by a “major biotechnology company”, would lead to mass-produced “breastmilk” that could even be sold in supermarkets to replace “formula” as an alternative to actual breastmilk.  The milk from the modified cows was found to contain several proteins specific to human milk as well as having a higher milk fat content more akin to that of breastmilk.

More fuel on the fire

The debate over how women and families choose to feed their babies is fractious, with those on the pro-breastfeeding side pointing out that by far the most nutritionally optimal food for human babies is human milk – and it’s got a huge benefit in that it’s completely free. 

Western society, however, is often sqeamish at the sight of a breastfeeding mother (despite the fact that we seem to be OK with the sight of breasts at any other time) and generally does not provide adequate support for women who choose to breastfeed.

Is it wise to use genetics to do this?

A more nutritionally balanced breastmilk substitute would certainly be welcomed by many. However, genetically modifying cows to provide that substitute is troubling. 

How safe is this “milk”? Have the claims that the milk is similar to breastmilk been proven? What does the process of genetic modification do to the cow? Given that previous attempts to breed genetically modified animals have resulted in high rates of mortality, what are the ethical implications in doing this kind of work on another species – especially when women are perfectly capable of feeding their children with their own milk?

The scientists say it would be at least 10 years before a cow-produced breastmilk substitute could hit the market.

 

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By Dohduhdah (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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289 comments

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12:35AM PDT on May 10, 2013

ah?
eep

5:31PM PDT on May 9, 2013

This is a level of gene manipulation that should scare us all...

5:43AM PDT on May 5, 2013

This is soooooo wrong on so many levels. Absolutely disgusted. Leave animals alone.

4:00PM PDT on Oct 29, 2011

Ew-w-w-w-w! That is just creepy. Now they won't even let animals be animals.

6:16AM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

Oh God, they are turning the poor animals into monsters. But then the chinese don't care about anyone, certainly not their cows, dogs, cats, fish, or even people.

6:05PM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

Milk now and a with a little more genetic tweaking and a cow's uterus will be acceptable to carry the Chinese Army's in vitro fertilized Super Men. I gotta see this movie.

5:30PM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

It isn't just an issue for those in the Sciences...It is an ISSUE FOR ALL OF US !!!!
But if you think you can lead others in the Sciences to Speak Up...GO TO IT !!!!

I am not demonizing China...they have done that very well for themselves...Have a Logical Day

12:29PM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

It is not a question of demonizing China or its internal political policies.

It is a question for the international science community. The technology has been out there since "Dolly" the cow was cloned and there was a Korean scientist that had claimed to have done the same with another animal.

It is an issue for the entire science community and for those students of the natural sciences to raise with their professors and with their university faculty. Are we going to stand by and allow the creation of sub-human beings for commercial exploitation?

11:38AM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

Roderick M....You bring up a frightening scenario and one that makes Planet of the Apes not so Fictional. China has no Human Rights Laws or RESPECT for any living creature that I have seen in the last 15 years. Very SAD for those Chinese that do not agree with their Govt.

10:39AM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

Strange that nobody has picked up the real issue, including the science community, Shame!

The inclusion of human genes into an animal makes that animal partially human. There are laws in most countries that forbid that sort of experimentation. While the Chinese apparently have no such laws, the inclusion of human genes renders the resultant mammal to some degree worthy of the rights and protections due a human being. We should expect in a short time other animals, such as chimpanzees with whom we share 98% of the genetic DNA to be the next to be modified. They are much stronger than humans, and will work harder, longer and without demands for wages, rights or benefits. They are the ideal slave labor force with a little genetic modification.
And the science community has nothing to say about this. Shame!

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